B.C. First Nations leader appeals to vaccine-hesitant to face 'indisputable truth'

As First Nations health officials track a growing spike in COVID-19 cases, the head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is making what he calls an “urgent and critical” call for unvaccinated British Columbians, Indigenous or not, to get their jabs immediately.

“Today. Not Tomorrow. Today. Now.” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said.

“It’s now beginning to jeopardize the lives of our young people and children,” Phillip added.

In fact, data from the First Nations Health Authority shows the biggest jump in COVID-19 cases appears to be among those under 12, who aren’t eligible for vaccines.

From Jan. 15 to July 31, that age group represented just 8.4 per cent of cases. From Aug. 1 until Oct. 2, that proportion has jumped to 12.8 per cent.

All age groups under 40 have also seen increase, though not as dramatic.

“My wife and I have been blessed with 15 grandchildren,” Phillip said. “They are at great risk.”

The chief medical officer of the First Nations Health Authority is also hoping boosters will soon be made available across communities.

Earlier this week, Dr. Shannon McDonald pointed to a significant increase in cases over the last six weeks, including a number of breakthrough cases, up to 25 or 30 per cent.

“Do not turn your back on our vulnerable people and seniors,” Phillip said, pointing out that it’s time even those who are vaccine-hesitant face up to what he called the “indisputable truth.”

“Vaccinations work. Vaccinations save lives,” Phillip said.

When asked about the vaccination rates for First Nations, which remain below those for B.C.’s overall population, Phillip called it “embarrassing,” and said communities are doing all they can to raise those numbers.

“I find that to be appalling,” Phillip said. “I think too many of our people are being willfully mislead by… the garbage information on the internet,” he added.

The province has said it expects details on boosters for First Nations to be made available sometime in the coming two to three weeks.

According to the First Nations Health Authority, as of Oct. 2, there have been a total of 10,952 First Nations cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

162 people have died.